Cablegate: Latvia: Special Media Reaction On Latvia's Decision To
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INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
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SUBJECT: Latvia: Special Media Reaction on Latvia's Decision to
Accept Guantanamo Detainee
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1. Summary: Press coverage of the Latvian Government's decision to
accept a former Guantanamo detainee has been extensive, largely
factual, and consistent with both Latvian and U.S. Government
statements on the issue, despite some sarcastic commentary in
Russian-language newspapers. Editorial comments have cast the
decision as a pragmatic move to cooperate with the United States.
Both Russian and Latvian-language papers have reported on the
Government's announcement that the detainee would like to learn the
Latvian language. Some Russian media sources have used a negative
tone in reporting that the detainee will receive financial support
from the United States. End summary.
2. Key Headlines:
-- Latvian-language centrist Diena (front page): "U.S. Prisoner
Liberated for Life in Latvia."
-- Latvian-language center-left Neatkariga Rita Avize (front page,
continued on inside page): "Controversial Solidarity with the
United States: To Show Solidarity with the United States, We Will
Accept A Former Inmate."
-- Latvian-language right wing Latvijas Avize (inside page):
"Prisoner comes," "Guantanamo Inmate Will Live in Latvia," and
"Modern Day Gulag?"
-- Russian-language centrist Telegraf (inside page): "Guantanamo
Inmate Might Become a Citizen."
-- Russian-language center-left Chas (inside page): "Obama: You've
Got a Present from Guantanamo."
-- Russian-language leftist Vesti Sevodnya (inside page): "Welcome!"
(Written in Latvian)
3. Press Coverage (chronological from latest):
Press coverage of the Latvian Government's decision to accept a
former Guantanamo detainee was extensive, largely factual, and
consistent with both Latvian and U.S. Government statements on the
issue, despite some sarcastic commentary in the Russian-language
newspapers. The centrist daily, Diena, local television stations,
and the Russian-language newspapers Chas and Telegraf ran factual
stories consistent with information provided by the Latvian
Government. The stories centered largely on the detainee's origins,
background, and plans for integration into Latvian society.
-- Latvijas Avize, one of Latvia's most widely-circulated dailies,
editorialized that the significance of accepting the detainee should
not be overly exaggerated. The paper asserted that the decision was
comparable to sending troops to Iraq and Afghanistan, and should be
looked upon as a foreign policy issue. The author remarked that
relations between Latvia and the United States have changed since
President Obama took office, but not as drastically as some might
worry. The paper opined that accepting this "victim" of the war on
terrorism is not as troublesome as rumors about secret CIA prisons
-- The widely-circulated, sensationalist Russian-language newspaper
Vesti Sevodnya ran a story under the headline "Laipni Ludzam" - a
Latvian phrase meaning "Welcome". The article focused heavily on
the Government's announcement that the detainee would learn the
Latvian language and would receive financial support from the United
States. The newspaper, which is often concerned with the rights of
non-citizens in Latvia, notes with sarcasm that the Guantanamo
detainee will be more privileged than Latvia's non-citizen residents
(typically ethnic Russians), since he will be receiving relocation
expenses and other monthly benefits, including medical care.
4. Comments by Experts:
-- A Positive Signal to the United States that Latvia is willing to
In an interview with the U.S. based publication, Politico, the
Latvian Ambassador to the United States said that the decision was
made in order to "send a signal that Latvia supports the decision to
close the base" and to "help the administration of President Obama
to deal with this complicated issue." According to a Former
Director of the Latvian Foreign Policy Institute, Atis Leijins, the
move "represents the country's readiness to help the United States"
after the United States has provided "assistance to Latvia" for many
years. Likewise, former Latvian Ambassador to the United States
Ojars Kalnins told the national news agency LETA that Latvia "and
other European countries are trying to help the Americans."
-- Commitment to the European Union
University of Latvia political scientist Zhaneta Ozolina told the
online portal Delfi that since the "EU criticized human rights
violations at Guantanamo prison," Latvia and other EU Member States
"should take some responsibility." Former Foreign Minister and
current Parliamentarian Artis Pabriks told the portal that Latvia
had to be prepared to take such a step, "if we have already
supported a common EU position." Political Scientist Daina Bleiere
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believes that the move reflects "international solidarity and
support of the U.S. administration's efforts to prevent human rights
violations occurring at Guantanamo prison."
-- Implications for National Security
Ozolina noted that while the detainee's connection to terrorism has
not been proven, his admission to Latvia will "create a new and
complex situation." The detainee's presence will force people to
"wake up and think about security," said Leijins. According to
Bleire, if no evidence of the individual's involvement in terrorism
has been found in five years, there should be no "negative effect on